The Benefits of Cupping Therapy

You may have noticed many athletes recently sporting perfectly round bruises on their backs and shoulders (think Michael Phelps at the Olympics a couple of years ago). Although cupping has recently become trendy, cupping therapy has actually been around since ancient times in Chinese medicine and in other cultures.

What is it?

Cupping therapy is a very popular holistic healing method. In cupping therapy, the therapist will light something on fire (like a cloth with alcohol, herbs, etc) inside a glass cup and then place the cup upside down on your skin. While the cup cools, it creates a vacuum which causes your skin to rise and blood vessels to expand. The best way to explain it is like a giant hickey, honestly. Most people use cupping therapy on their back, shoulders, and neck. You can also cup your arms, legs, hips, face, and even your stomach! (It's great for promoting healthy digestion).

There are many different types and methods of cupping, however, leading alternative medicine practitioners recognize two main types: dry cupping and wet cupping. Dry cupping is simply as described above. Wet cupping involves making small slices on the skin and drawing some blood out into the cup. Some therapists might have you lay still with the cups on, others might have you move specific muscles to improve blood flow.

Close-up of my shoulders during my cupping sesson.